Count The Kicks

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The importance of your unborn baby’s well-being whilst your pregnant is paramount for any mum-to-be. So keeping a close eye on daily movements is essential to ensure you’re baby is well. But what if one day your baby hadn’t moved as much as usual. What if you were 38 weeks pregnant and a friend reassured you that it was probably because the baby didn’t have much room, or that it was a sign you could be going into labour. What would you do? Count The Kicks is a UK based charity that aims to educate mums on the importance of a baby’s movements and to help them work with healthcare professionals to bring home a healthy baby. Chief Executive Elizabeth Hutton explains why the charity was first set up and what should mums and midwives know about fetal movements in pregnancy.

Tell me about Count The Kicks charity and why it was started. 

Count the Kicks is trying to empower mums to be with knowledge and confidence during pregnancy by raising awareness of babys movements and their importance in a baby’s wellbeing. We were founded in 2009 by Sophia Mason following the tragic stillbirth of her daughter Chloe. Chloe’s movements had begun to slow down leading up to her due date but Sophia was led to believe this was normal, but what she’d read on the internet and in magazines. When she called her midwife, it was too late. Chloe was stillborn 3 days before her due date. Determined to ensure other mums did not experience the same heartache, Sophia set up Count the Kicks to raise awareness of how important fetal movements really are.

What is the aim of the charity and how can Mums-to-be access support and information? 

We want mums to feel confident enough to call their midwife if they notice any change in their baby’s regular pattern of movement. We produce leaflets, stickers and posters that we send to midwives so many mums will be able to access the information straight from their midwife. Our leaflets are also in the mum to be Bounty Packs that mums can collect at 20 weeks. Alternatively all our information is available online at countthekicks.org.uk or on our Facebook page facebook.com/ukcountthekicks

There still seems to be a lot of conflicting advice about what’s normal for baby’s movements eg ’10 kicks a day’ ‘baby slowing down before labour’ ‘movements less when there’s not much room’. How can we as midwives make sure women are receiving the correct advice about fetal movements?

The current guidelines say that a woman should report any change in her baby’s regular pattern of movement. There is no set number a woman needs to get to so counting to 10 is unhelpful. Movements vary from 4 – 100 every hour and fetal movement is completely dependent on what a mum perceives to be her baby’s movements. One woman may feel every little roll and movement, while another may only feel the big kicks, how can we be telling both these women they need to feel the same number? They need to know what they see as their baby’s regular pattern and then they can report if they notice any change in that. It is important for mums to also be aware that babies do not slow down as they reach the end of pregnancy.

As a midwife I always reassure women that they never waste my time by calling if they haven’t felt their baby move. What advice do you give women if they have any concerns. 

Much the same! We always advise women to report any change in movement to their midwife. We want them to be reassured that midwives would much rather see them a hundred times and have to keep telling them the baby is fine, than to see them once and have to deliver devastating news. So if you are ever worried about your baby you should contact your midwife. They are there to help you. 

If you had a pot of gold – how and where would you use the money to help families affected by losing a baby?

Our aim is to prevent stillbirth, we would love for no one to need bereavement support. If I had a pot of god I would love to continue to provide our leaflets but also be able to provide our wristbands free to all mums to be. This would cost approximately £1 million pounds a year so we would need a big pot! But we hope to one day make that a reality. 

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If my blog was my third child…..

it would be in therapy for emotional neglect. I briefly popped over here a few weeks back and it looked a bit sad and hadn’t been updated for ages and I thought ‘oh god I better do something about that’, and then life took over and another week went by and well here I am feeling guilty. Mothers guilt, bloggers guilt its all the same.

To be honest I’m still dreaming of the amazing holiday my husband and I went on to Rio for 10 WHOLE CHILD FREE DAYS. Sorry I just have to sometimes say it out loud to really believe it ever happened, My tan has faded and I’m back wearing jeans. The kids are being their usual selves, my husband and I are arguing about the bathroom tiles and babies continue to be born. Basically life goes on.

But the main reason I’ve been quiet is because I’m writing a book. So kind of quite a big deal except it’s all so surreal I can’t quite believe it’s ever going to happen. But it has to happen because I’ve said I’ll do it. Gulp. I have an agent and a publisher and I can now add writer to my list of credits – mother, wife, midwife, fish finger server, monthly nit checker oh the list could go on.

‘So how the hell is she going to do all those things AND write a book?’ I hear you cry. Well some things have to change but the main thing is I’m going to be writing less for this blog. But fear not lovers of birth stories because that weekly feature will still go on.

A while back I put a shout out on twitter for more birth stories as my file was running on low and you know that’s not good, and a whole load of you sent me your AMAZING stories. If I haven’t replied or thanked you it’s not because I haven’t received them or I’m being rude, it’s because I got sent so many (about 80!) and I’m still going through them all. I never edit or cut your beautiful stories but I love to read them all before publishing them. So thank you every single one of you. And if you still want to send in your story all you have to do is email it to gasandairblog@gmail.com with some photos too. It doesn’t have to be be of the actual birth just of your lovely selves and maybe with your baby. What ever you feel comfortable with.

Part of the book will contain some of the incredible birth stories from this blog, don’t ask me how I’m going to pick which ones as it’s going to be so difficult to chose. But they will vary as I want to cover all types of birth. So keep your eyes peeled for an email from me later on this year if your’s is the chosen one.

I’ll also keep updating my gas&air Facebook page which you can like here to see any articles or links which I think you might find interesting.

So for now I will be taking a sabbatical from gasandair and focus my writing skills in my book, see it still seems so weird to think I will have a published book out sometime in 2017.

Watch this space x

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Birth Story Of The Week – Jo and Alfred

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I was 23 when I found out I was pregnant, 24 when I had him, and though my boyfriend (now husband) and I had talked about it and both wanted a baby I always felt that I was viewed as too young, one midwife even called me a baby, and so I avoided ante-natal classes until quite late on. At 8 months pregnant having not thought about a birth plan I went to a couple of yoga and hypnobirth classes.

I loved them but once it came to B-Day everything I had learnt went out the window. I was terrified, totally unsure what actual labour was and found it all overwhelming.

At 3am on 26th March after an evening of mild but regular cramping I went to the loo and found I was bleeding. In hind sight it wasn’t much at all but I panicked and made my boyfriend call the hospital and tell them we were coming. I was unsurprisingly sent home. Then at 9am whilst in the shower I felt my waters go. It wasn’t very much at all and my contractions were still nothing to write home about but again we went in. By the time we got there I was in more pain but was only 2cm dilated and sent to walk around a bit. At this point I growled (husband says it was more of a moo) to take me home as I didn’t want anyone to see me. I now think that this is the point that my maternal instinct had kicked in and I knew I needed to be alone with my contractions. We stayed at home, in the bath until my contractions were almost on top of each other. At home was the calmest and most in control I felt in my whole labour. We left for the hospital and I barely remember the drive there. When we arrived at 2pm I was only 4 cm and gutted. It turned out baby was back to back and when I heard this, having never heard it before I was totally freaked out and immediately doubted my ability. I had gas and air for a bit whilst begging for an epidural between breaths. My husband gently reminded me that I desperately didn’t want an epidural but I ignored him and past me. To this day it is still a regret.

Despite the fact that the epidural allowed me to rest and calm down I spent the rest of the labour feeling nothing. Nothing at all. I pushed numb and painlessly, feeling totally useless and just listening to the midwives’ (who were all lovely) instructions. When they told me he was crowning I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t ready for him. It wasn’t the experience I had wanted and it felt like a total blur.

When he arrived at 11.36pm on 26th March I felt a bizarre mixture of sheer joy and total confusion. Who did this? Where did he come from?!

We stayed at hospital for another 12 hours which I hated. All I wanted to do was go home and be with my family. I hated my husband having to leave, nobody checked to see if he latched on properly once I was on the ward (lucky he was a star but I didn’t know that till my home visit!) I even got up to go to the loo and blood and waters went everywhere, something I had no idea would happen. Again it all felt totally alien and scary and I just wanted to go home and be with my husband.

I know so many labours can be a lot worse than mine physically and I feel so lucky we were both well and healthy but I felt and still feel so emotionally disconnected from it. Sometimes I wonder (despite the back to back thing) if I had just stayed at home would I have felt more empowered? More in control in my body?

Despite my husbands concerns I am looking very seriously into a hypnobirth home birth as an option this time. I want more than anything to be in control and comfortable with my surroundings. I also don’t want to be scared like last time.

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I just read my email back and wanted to add that despite sounding positively NOT positive, for me it was positive in the sense that it made me realise how important it is to understand how your body works and to really trust your instincts. I think if I had done that it would have been very different for me and I wouldn’t have been so scared and disconnected.

Also, look at the little 9lb 6oz star I got to take home with me! Worth all the pain and more!

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Follow Jo on Instagram @joannakays and over at her blog mamajolene.wordpress.com

Birth Story Of The Week – Katie and William

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As my youngest son turned 1 at the weekend, I remembered that high on endorphins and sleep deprivation, I promised Clemmie my birth story.  A whole year ago.  So, as I wait for this mythical ‘it gets easier when the  youngest is one’ thing to take hold, I thought I should probably get round to it now.  Here goes….

My delivery with my eldest son almost 3 years prior to William’s arrival had been a long and protracted affair.  Ineffective pessary, waters broken, then sent away for the ritualistic march up and down the stairs.  12 hours later, no action, so a lovely epidural and swift twist of the forceps and there he was.  Not traumatic or awful, but pretty exhausting and far from what you hope for, once you’ve gotten all of that ‘I just want a healthy baby’ business out of the way.

I was determined that it wouldn’t be that way for my second.  This would be a relaxed home birth.  I borrowed a pool, collected more old towels and bedding than I knew what to do with, and readied an army of babysitters to look after Albert.  Except William had other plans.  Due date came and went, no sign.  Daily sweeps told me that I was 3cm dilated with a ‘favourable’ cervix,  but it seemed that no amount of bouncing on a ball, long walks or vacuuming the stairs was going to move him along.  I was due to be booked in for an induction on 4th Feb, but decided, after a good chat with my midwives to leave him for a few more days to see if he fancied vacating of his own accord.  Still nothing, and with that, the chances of my homebirth disappeared.  I trudged into Kings on 7th Feb, only to be told that yes, I was still 3-4cm dilated, yes, my waters should just be broken so that we can get on with it, but sadly, they were extremely busy and had no staff or space.  I obviously reacted in the way that any massively overdue, hormonal woman  would do and cried, huffed and puffed at my husband, and then settled down to watch Homes under the Hammer on the ipad.

I hadn’t, however, banked on the appearance of my midwife at 10.30pm on a Friday night.  She breezed in to the ward, rolled up her sleeves, and very kindly instructed me that we were ‘going to meet this baby.  Tonight.’ I’m a big fan of the gung-ho approach, so completely went with it.  She found a delivery suite, settled us in, and promptly broke my waters.  She found a mat and a blanket for my husband and instructed him to have a nap because he ‘wasn’t going to be much use yet’ and left me to get on with it.  Brilliant.

The room was lovely and calm, and the lighting was pleasant – not hospital like at all.  There was a docking station, so I bravely left my iPod on shuffle and out of reach.  The fear that the next song could be Wham kept me going to be honest….  My contractions started pretty immediately after my waters went and became regular quickly.  I was on my feet and moving around the room, stopping to lean on furniture and hum when the contractions came.  After around 90 minutes, and still on my feet, the contractions were getting much stronger, and had moved downwards into my lower back.  Humming had turned more into growling and I wasn’t so much leaning on the furniture as clinging to it at this point.  My midwife asked how I was doing, and the words that came out of her mouth surprised me as much as her – ‘I think I need to push’.  ‘Hmm, you’d better take your pants off then’ came the reply.  By this time I was scorching hot, so thought it a good opportunity to strip off every last stitch.  Amazing what those hormones do to you.  My husband made himself useful with cool flannels and encouraging words, and I was examined – I was 8.5 centimetres, but still had work to do before I could push.  To be honest I thought I was heading for a repeat of my last labour and was starting to feel disheartened – I didn’t want a ‘medical’ delivery this time, and had felt like it was all going well up to now.

My midwife advised me to try lying on my side on a mat on the floor.  I was dubious at first – grasvity didn’t seem to be on my side here, but that shows what I know.  Contractions started coming along thick and fast, and I had some gas and air to take the edge off.  I’m not entirely sure that the gas had much effect, but the mouthpiece and regularity of using it was a useful distraction from pain and focusing on breathing.  What felt like two minutes later (but was actually about 40) the urge to push returned.  This time I got the green light to push and a delighted voice from the other end told me ‘I can see the head!’  This is where Vanessa really came into her own (as if she hadn’t already!) – we had already ascertained that he was a big baby, so hurrying this part could have been disastrous.  I followed her every instructions about pushing, stopping, puffing – to be honest, if she’d told me to stand up and do the Macarena I would have – and a few minutes later Williams head emerged.    A couple more pushed and the rest of him followed, all 9lbs 5oz of him, with not a single tear, graze or stitch.  There was a calm sense of amazement in the room afterwards – I was staggered that my body had done what it needed to so efficiently after a slow start, and we were all a bit dazzled by this enormous (and beautiful!) baby.

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I was the last person who was ever going to describe childbirth as ‘amazing’ or ‘relaxed’ or even ‘calm’.  However, my delivery with William was all of those things.  Although I was in a busy hospital, it felt like there was only me, my husband and Vanessa in the world, and then William too!  It was calm, I was calm, and William’s welcome into the world was calm and overwhelmingly happy.  The whole process took 3 hours from start to finish, and I was home and introducing William to his big brother 2 hours later.  If you find yourself having an induction or hospital delivery that you didn’t hope for, don’t despair!

Birth Story Of The Week – Siobhan and Arlo

Thursday

So my waters had gone, I’d managed to convinced myself it wasn’t wee, based on the fact I’d gone to the toilet mere moments before fridge-gate (so low was my trust in the stability of my bladder), and I’d just sat down to write my Christmas cards… You can read about that here.

It is about 1pm when I finish writing all my cards, and messaging friends and family for their addresses. This year (since I’m transitioning from young-mum-of-one to woman-with-two-kids), I have done the unprecedented and invested in an actual, physical, address book, so decide now is the perfect time to copy all the addresses I have into it. This leaves me feeling very organised and happy with myself (does this last-minute life admin count as nesting?!).

Because I’m not having any contractions and time is of the essence, I get to work on my nipple stimulation with an electric breast pump in an attempt to bring some on (upping the ante on the simple nipple twiddling of the day before). I am now listening to my Hypnobirthing affirmations, having decided the BBC’s ‘The Missing’, albeit totally gripping, is just a tad too tense and possibly having a detrimental effect on my uterus.

At about 2pm I call my midwife as I have not felt the baby move all day and she had said to keep an eye on baby’s movements. I tell her that I don’t need her to come out because I’m not having regular contractions but says she will pop by anyway to have a listen to baby… (Reflecting now, I clearly remember making this call. I would never in a million years have believed I would be holding my baby in a matter of hours!!).

Whilst waiting for my midwife to arrive I am having some contractions but not take-your-breath-away ones. They are however coming of their own accord since I have stopped pumping. I’m not convinced it’s the real deal though and feel I need a professional (i.e. my midwife) to tell me whether this is it or not.

We do crack open the birth bag at this point though, figuring we might as well make use of our nice things because whether or not this is it right now, since my waters have gone, I am going to be in labour in the next 24 hours or so. We light our lovely Diptyque Pomander scented candle that we chose for our birth (recommend doing this by the way!), pull down the blackout blinds in our bedroom and I start bouncing on my birth ball, whilst applying some make-up (obvs want to look good just in case it is happening!).

At this point I’m welcoming each contraction and when there’s a bit of a gap between one ending and the next one starting, I actually worry that it’s all died off and this isn’t it at all. So each time one comes I’m like YAY, GO BODY! I am doing my up breathing through each one but they aren’t in any way painful.

My midwife arrives at 2.30pm and has a listen to baby. All seems well. Around 3pm she says she’s going to make a move but to call her back when I need her. She tells me she thinks it will be soon. I ask how soon??!! She says she thinks that it will be tonight. I realise baby might actually arrive ON his/her due day (which is tomorrow) – how amazing would that be!

Just after 3pm James says it’s time for him to go and do the school pick-up. My midwife kindly offers to wait with me until he returns. At this point I’m thinking my son will come home, we will have dinner together later on and he will go to bed at his normal time.  Then hopefully (fingers crossed) my labour will kick off in the night. My midwife advises me to have a bath to ease the discomfort once she has left and to try and get some sleep to conserve my energy for later.

By the time James is back at 3.30pm, less than half an hour later, EVERYTHING has changed. I’m not having a bath or a sleep – it’s time to inflate the birth pool – and quick! My midwife has decided she is staying now and it’s not long until she is calling the second midwife.

At one point the contractions were irregular and pain-free, then very quickly they increased in frequency and then very suddenly they increased in intensity and I was not welcoming them any more.

I say hello to my little (soon to be big) boy when he gets back from school but am not able to say much else. I quickly feel like I need him out of the house because I need to focus all my energy and attention on each surge* so my friend is called to collect him.

*I will call them surges from now on because they are powerful and not just little contractions/tightenings.

At 4pm I ask my midwife to examine me. She warns me that it will not tell me how long my labour is going to be, but I need to know something is happening. The surges are intense. My midwife has a poke around and tells me I am approximately 5cm dilated. I am slightly disappointed to hear I am only half-way, especially since I was already 2cm on Monday. I this this means I have a loooong way to go (little do I know).

At 4.10pm my friend arrives and I say goodbye to my son. James is busy inflating and filling the pool and over the next half an hour or so I do feel quite alone as I deal with each surge standing at the dining room, gripping on to the edge. I just want the pool to be ready so I can get in, believing it will feel amazing. The surges are really intense and between each one I give myself an internal pep talk, reminding myself that I want a natural homebirth, that I can do this, that I am in control etc. Then the surge hits and I’m screaming silently in my own head very negative things like I can’t cope, I need pain relief. This internal battle goes back and forth like this for a while whilst I stand bent over the table, rocking backwards and forwards, channeling all my energy into my breathing. I’m not really aware of what is going on around me and am not making conversation with anyone. At this point I really have gone within myself. I do notice that a resuscitation area has been set up on the dining room table but try to put it out of my mind.

After a while I move into the living room, kneel on the sofa and hold James’ hand and tell him I need him to stay close to me now. I don’t care about the pool anymore, I just want him to help me. He crouches down next to me, holds my hand, applies pressure to my back, as I rock backward and forwards over the arm of the sofa, breathing in and out with all the strength I can muster. The surges now are relentless and totally consuming me with their power and I am just fighting to stay on top of them.

A visualization I was taught in pregnancy yoga really helped me at this point: I rocked forward on all fours as I breathed in through my nose and then rocked back onto my heels as I exhaled through my mouth, visualizing a long golden thread extending into the distance. To keep myself breathing out for a long time and not hyperventilating/losing control, I imagined that each long out breath was pushing this golden thread further and further.

At 5pm the pool is finally ready for action. (I only know this from reading my notes because by this point I was not aware of time). The long-awaited, much-anticipated, pool of dreams. I step in and in my memory step straight out, but apparently I was in there for a few minutes. I don’t like it and in any case I feel I need to go to the loo for a number two.

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My lovely midwife tries to convince me it is my baby but I am having none of it.  How could it be the baby, I think, when I still have so many hours to go?!

I hate the idea of poo’ing in the pool and think I know when I need the toilet. Turns out I don’t. As I sit on the toilet with nothing happening, James and my midwife stand outside the bathroom door telling me not to push too hard because I don’t want to give birth on the loo!

I am aware I have only been in labour for a very short while so cannot believe baby is almost ready to make his/her entrance. I ask my midwife to check that it really is the baby but at this point I can’t lie down on my back or even sit down(!). She kindly obliges and examines me standing up. She tells me I am fully dilated and the baby’s head is just centimeters from its exit! I have gone from 5cm to fully dilated in under 1 hour!!! This might go some way to explaining why it is so intense.

Only after being examined and being told me I am good to go, do I believe and give into the urge to push. And boy did I need to push.

At 5.15pm I start pushing, on all fours, on the sofa, completely naked (and not caring in the slightest), in front of the Christmas tree. This baby is not going to be a water baby after all! As I push I bite down hard on a pillow and roar. At one point I scream, “It’s not going to fit” but am reassured that it will. And, “It can’t stay there” when the baby’s head crowns just as the contraction ends, leaving me momentarily at full stretch (probably the most painful moment).

But after just four minutes of what feels like a surprisingly hard, brick-like object, descending down a tunnel that is far too small to accommodate it, at 5.19pm, my gorgeous, perfectly formed, beautiful, baby boy flies (literally flies) into this world and is caught (just) by Natalie, our midwife. James who has been crouched by my head, whispering encouraging and lovely things into my ear, calls “It’s a boy!”, tears flowing, as our baby flies out, little arms up by his head and legs open like a froglet, revealing what we’ve waited 40 weeks to know. He is then passed immediately through my legs and I bring him up to my chest, bloody and beautiful. James captures the moment on camera and it is without a doubt my favourite photo.

I am so happy. There are no words. I birthed our beautiful baby just as I dreamt (albeit not in the pool), at home, in front of the Christmas tree, with no pain relief necessary. This couldn’t have been more different to my previous experience.

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With my first I was almost two weeks overdue, my labour was induced and it lasted 2 long days. I was attached to a drip, pumped full of artificial hormones, strapped to a monitor and endured a number of invasive procedures. I couldn’t sleep and wasn’t allowed to eat. It was a very stressful experience. I ended up having an epidural so felt nothing and my poor son was finally born by forceps delivery in theatre, narrowly avoiding a c-section, under bright lights, surrounded by people I had never met. Arlo James, on the other hand, arrived the day before he was ‘due’, into a completely calm environment, in the comfort of our family home and my labour lasted just 2 hours and 19 minutes.

It was however the most intense 2 hours and 19 minutes of my life. The surges came on hard and fast and good God were they hard. I breathed for my life and could do little else but focus on that. The pushing was the most acutely painful part yet, ironically, the part for which I am most grateful I felt. To feel his head descend was so real and unlike anything else and I am so glad I got to fully feel and experience the miracle of giving birth. I have never felt more in the present in my whole life. It wasn’t calm or sensual, there wasn’t any incense or oms, (it progressed far too quickly for that!), there was no water baby but it was incredible and intense, powerful and primal (and quite bloody painful). My birth experience was, put quite simply, amazing.

Something I learnt in labour was that Hypnobirthing and all our practice didn’t make labour pain-free, but it helped me to feel in control and awesomely powerful and it gave James a real purpose. Also, I talk about ‘pain’ but at no point did I ask for pain relief, not even a paracetamol. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat, in fact, I wish I could(!).

Doing Hypnobirthing meant we were prepared and ready, excited even, for labour to begin! At no point was I truly scared or afraid: I knew I was capable and I trusted my body and baby completely. When it came to pushing I made these loud, primal, roaring/grunting noises. Although I had imagined quietly breathing my baby down as I’d seen in hypnobirthing videos, my body just took over and I could do nothing else but push. It was instinctive. It was powerful. And I went with it.

Had I not done Hypnobirthing I don’t think I would have gone with it. I would have been nervous of the pain. I would have doubted my ability to do it. I would have been worried about the baby. Instead I embraced it, I pushed, I roared like a lion, and then my baby arrived and immediately all the pain just stopped and pure elation flowed.

I had just experienced the most incredible moment of my life.

Things didn’t go quite so well afterwards. I lost 1.5 litres of blood and was transferred to hospital by ambulance. I had 3 tears unfortunately, which needed to be sutured and just when I thought we could go home, I had a huge allergic reaction to something in hospital and went into anaphylactic shock!

But why dwell on the negative?! I know what part I want to remember.

Friday

After a lot of waiting around in a very small and very hot and stuffy hospital room (shouldn’t complain, we did get a private room and James was able to stay with me overnight), we were finally allowed to go home.

And then I’m not sure what happened later that day, or the next, or the next. They all just sort of ran into one another.

We existed in this beautiful bubble for the next week or so and it was just gorgeous. It was like we had just opted out of real life with all its routine and demands. We slept when we wanted, we ate when we felt hungry (even if it was 4am) and we just allowed our home to fill with all of this love.

I miss it already. Those precious early days. I tried so hard to cherish every single moment, knowing it all goes far too fast. I will treasure my memories of that special time for the rest for the life. As James says, it is worth having another baby for (and we have had a LOT of sleepless nights!).

That, I think, says it all.

What You Need to Know About Your Skin During Pregnancy

This guest post by Cassie discusses great tips for your pregnant skin and dispels all those myths. Enjoy!

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“Pregnancy is a beautiful, transformative experience. It can also be transformative for your skin–in a not-so-beautiful way. Sometimes, hormones wreak havoc on complexion, leaving you perplexed and overwhelmed.

Here are some of the things you need to know about the ways your skin can change during pregnancy, along with advice on how to combat any skin woes.

The “Mask of Pregnancy” — More Common Than You Think   

You’ve probably heard of the “mask of pregnancy.” Also referred to as melasma and chloasma, the condition is rather ubiquitous (50% of pregnant women!) and hormonal in nature. The “mask” or melasma produces dark spots all over the face, particularly around the forehead, cheeks, and mouth, creating the appearance of a shadow or mask (hence the name). What you’re really seeing is a result of increased pigment in the skin due to pregnancy hormones.

So how do you treat it? As with most skin conditions, the best solution is actually in prevention. Be sure to wear SPF of 15 or higher (preferably closer to SPF 30), wear protective clothing, and limit sun exposure throughout your pregnancy. During these 9 months, your skin is more sensitive than usual, and it requires extra care.

If you’ve already developed the mask, consult your dermatologist and/or doctor. In most cases, the changes in pigment fade after you give birth. However, lingering effects might be due to a treatable, hormonal imbalance.

Hormonal Acne 

Even if you usually have clear skin, pregnancy hormones can still throw your complexion’s equilibrium out of whack. And if you’re already prone to blemishes, the increased hormones can send your oil-secretion glands into overdrive, causing even more breakouts. Many people talk about “the pregnancy glow.” However, that “glow” looks different for different people. If you’re experiencing any of these hormonal changes, don’t worry! This is a completely normal reaction.

What to do: make sure you’re diligent with a twice-daily, face-cleansing routine. It’s a good idea to use a non-comedogenic cleanser, toner, and then light moisturizer. Cetaphil and other gentle, over-the-counter cleansers are a good option.

Stretch Marks 

Once again, preventative measures are the key to warding off stretch marks. Coconut oil, cocoa butter, and other lotions are some of the best ways to prevent these red and pink marks. However, know that a large majority of women experience stretch marks post pregnancy. It’s totally natural and happens when the skin stretches due to swelling bellies and breasts. Exercise during pregnancy can also help prevent stretch marks.

The good news: even if none of these over-the-counter remedies work, stretch marks almost always fade after delivery. They’re sort of like Mummy battle scars. So if you can, wear them with pride. You’re strong and beautiful just the way you are.

What do you think, Mums-to-be?

Have you experienced any of the aforementioned skin issues? What advice do you have for pregnant mums? Leave your comments in the space below. Congratulations, and happy nesting!”

Cassie Brewer is a professional make-up artist and blogs brilliantly all about it here cassiembrewer.weebly.com

What is a doula and do I need one?

doula LouiseEver wondered what a doula really does? Ever thought if hiring one for your pregnancy and birth would be beneficial? Louise tells us all about what her role involves and how she makes it work into her family life!

I’m Louise, and I’m a Birth Doula.   I’m also an NCT Practitioner and I facilitate my local Positive Birth Movement group.

“What does a birth doula DO exactly? And, why should I hire one?”  I hear you cry!

A doula recognises birth as a key life experience and has undergone training to understand the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of women and their partners during this time.

She offers continuous, emotional and practical support to women, their partners and their families during pregnancy, birth and early parenthood and also provides an objective viewpoint and information to aid decision making.

Studies indicate that a natural by-product of this type of support is better outcomes for babies and their mothers: shorter, more comfortable labours, fewer interventions and greater maternal satisfaction. A doula does: support your choices, provide continuity of care, offer evidence-based research and information.

A doula doesn’t: push any particular birth method, make decisions for you or exclude your birth partner.

So, if it matters to you if you know the person who looks after you in labour, and if you want to have the support of someone knowledgeable who you know and trust, this might be an option for you.

There’s no such thing as a ‘typical woman’ or ‘typical baby’ or ‘typical labour & birth’ so I can’t really describe a ‘typical doula gig’ but I can give you an idea of what I do based on my experiences so far. Clients get in touch with me, and, if I’m available around their estimated due date (and it IS an estimated date parents! More about that later), then we arrange to meet up.  This initial meeting is free and there’s no obligation on either side.  Usually parents meet with 3 or 4 doulas before deciding on ‘The One’ – it’s really important that both parents meet me and that we all ‘click’.

Once I’ve agreed to be someone’s doula, I block out about 5 weeks in my diary when I will be available to them, exclusively, up until they have their baby.

I go on-call for parents 10 days before the estimated due date and I don’t book anyone else in until 3 and a bit weeks after that date.  This is because all of my babies came at 43 weeks so I like to allow for that plus a couple of days off-call before I go on-call for my next client.  That’s just me, very much shaped by my own experiences!  Most doulas’ on-call period is 2 weeks before the estimated due date until 2 weeks after.

Before that time though, I meet up with parents at least twice for antenatal sessions that usually last a couple of hours each.  These take place about a month before my on-call period begins.

Parents set the agenda and usual topics are:

  • De-briefing any previous births
  • Understanding the physiology of birth
  • The role of hormones and the effect of the birth environment on them
  • What will help the birth process, and what won’t
  • Physical skills for labour and birth – positions, breathing, relaxation & visualisation techniques.
  • Working through any concerns and understanding your aspirations for your birth
  • My role, partners role, how we’ll work together as a team
  • Transition to parenthood

I’ll often meet up with a mum just for a chats too in the months beforehand – she might come on a dog walk with me, or pop in for a cup of tea if she’s nearby or I’ll call on her.  This happens especially if I’ve been booked quite early on in her pregnancy, so that we really know each other well by the time we do the antenatal sessions.

I facilitate the Tunbridge Wells Positive Birth Group from my home, and usually doula clients come along to that once a month too.

It’s really, really common for mums hiring me to call me a lot to talk through things as they reach about 35 weeks – it seems to me to be a time when women naturally start wanting to sort through any anxieties they have that they may have been pushing to one side up until that point.  These seem to rise to the fore at a time which is, thankfully, a good while before labour is imminent, and that’s great: it means they have time to talk things through, reflect on our discussions, talk them through again, reflect a bit more, talk a bit more and hopefully that process means they’re in a good place mentally and able to relax and feel confident before their labour begins.  It also means that we continue to build our relationship and trust with each other.

When I first go on-call, I’m pretty relaxed. Yes, I have my bag packed ready, my phone fully charged & on ‘loud’ 24/7, my family know I could get called at a moment’s notice, I don’t drink any alcohol, but it’s not until around the 41 week stage that I start putting serious effort into going to bed early (I like to be asleep by 10pm, in case I get called at 3 am) and being militarily organised: every evening I run through the next day with my husband – where he’s going to be, how quickly he can get home, whether or not he’d be able to do the school pick-up with less than an hour’s notice (my youngest is 9) etc.  Any gaps have to be filled, usually by one of my teenagers, who aren’t always great at answering their phones – which does introduce an element of anxiety, or by one of my many school-mum friends.

It’s very usual for mums to call me after their 40 week check up with their midwife, as it seems to be at around this point that induction gets mentioned.  What mums usually say is “I went for my check-up and the midwife said that next week she’ll book me in for an induction at 42 weeks.”  I find it’s usually best to talk this through face to face with both parents: it’s vital that they understand that the induction is being offered and that they can decline it and take up the other options that should also be put forward.  They need to understand the procedure and the possible risks and benefits of induction, in order to make their own, informed decision on what’s right for them and to know that I’ll be there to support that decision 100%

Now, back to that Estimated Due Date (EDD) – we usually talk through the fact that it is exactly that: Estimated!  Term is anything from 38-42 weeks for a single baby.  So their baby is quite likely to want to make an appearance at some point during that 4 week period. Some babies, like mine (43, yes, 43 weeks! I was Climbing. The. Walls!), take a bit longer than that. I completely understand that it’s really hard not to get fixated on the EDD (I’ve been that person), especially as it’s likely that most of your friends and family will do too and may start ‘phoning/texting on a daily basis with queries like “anything happening?” and, without meaning to, they’re creating an added pressure to ‘get on with it’. Taking a leaf out of Kate & William’s book and just providing your nearest and dearest with a ‘due month’ might be an idea.

Induction, and other options suggested during pregnancy, labour and birth can be construed by parents as something they have to accept.  It’s not always clear if this is because of the way they have been presented by healthcare providers, or down to the way parents have interpreted what’s said to them – I suspect it’s a mixture of both.  Either way, it’s important to clear that up and for them to be aware of all options, and that’s part of my role too.

So, when a woman waits until she goes into spontaneous labour, she’ll usually give me a ring when she feels that ‘something’s happening’ – this gives me the heads-up to get all my personal arrangements sorted.  Often it’s late afternoon or evening time when I get that call – I don’t need to do anything at that point.  If women wake in the night feeling that things are starting, they tend to wait until the morning before calling to let me know, as long as they’re happy and unconcerned.

More often than not though, I’ll get a call in the evening and then THE Call some time in the night.  THE Call is the one where parents are asking me to come over.  At this point, mums are finding their contractions are taking up all their attention, getting stronger, longer and closer together and she may be feeling like she’s ready for some extra support.  Or, it may be that her partner feels that he/she is needing some support.  Either way, if I’m needed I go. (A doula will usually come to your home before you call the midwife for a home birth or before you set off to the Birth Centre or Hospital if that’s where you’re having your baby).

I’ll have had a shower before bed and have my clothes laid out (comfortable & layers) so that if I’m called in the night I just have to brush my teeth, get dressed, grab my bag and go.

Once I arrive with a mum or couple I’m usually with them until their baby’s born.  Sometimes though, I’ll go back home if we all decide it’s still a bit too early in labour.  I’m always happy to go backwards and forwards if that’s what’s needed, because I’m aware that there can be, for a labouring woman, an element of ‘needing to perform’ (for want of a better phrase) once I’m there!  Or, I might go into another room and read my book, watch TV or sleep so that mum doesn’t feel observed in any way, but knows I’m right there if she needs me.

Usually though, I’ve been called because mum really needs some extra support.  She needs reassurance that everything is ok. She needs reminding that her contractions are a muscle working really, really hard, over and over again and that they are a sign that her body is doing exactly what it needs to to birth her baby. She needs to feel safe. She may need encouragement.  She’ll probably appreciated the distraction of someone new arriving.  She might need help getting into a comfortable position – perhaps making a nest of pillows, quilts etc. She’ll need to be reminded to drink and try to eat a little and to go to the loo.  She might need a hug.  She might need to relax in a bath that’s kept at a comfortable temperature. She might find a wonderful lower back massage soothing. These are all particular ways I can support her.

I’m always very, very focussed on partners and their needs too.  Dads, for example, can feel quite anxious at this point. They visibly relax when I arrive and usually prefer me to stay once I’m there, even if I’m in another room.  Their supporting role is vital: they’re the person that Mum is closest to and trusts the most.  It’s my job to support them so that they can support her.  They need to feel safe, reassured and confident.

If parents are planning to have their baby at a Birth Centre or Hospital I provide the support so that they feel able to stay at home for as long as possible.  However, I always listen to the woman in labour – if she feels she wants to get going, that’s what we’ll do. When it’s time to leave I travel with them.

Wherever they are having their baby, there will be a midwife joining our little team at some point.  I consider it my responsibility to make sure that this union goes well.  Most midwives seem happy with the presence of a doula, but not all.  What I say to parents antenatally is that, if mum and dad are ok, I’ll spend half and hour ingratiating myself with the midwife.  By this I mean being friendly, considerate and respectful – chatting, helping, making sure I’m not in her way, listening etc. so that she feels comfortable with me there and hopefully realises that I’m not going to be a trouble-making-pain-in-the-butt.  Remember the last time you were in company where there was ‘a bit of an atmosphere’ between two people and how uncomfortable that feels?  So, you can see why I feel this is always time well spent.  It also means that we work together in a collaborative way in supporting my clients – we’re all part of the same team.

During the established first stage of labour, wherever she is, Mum might need much the same support provided during the latent phase earlier.

Her contractions will be closer together, stronger and longer.  Having got the room to her liking – usually dimmed lights, quiet, privacy & peace ensured – I watch out for signs of tension in her body: shoulders rising, jaw clenching, furrowed brow, clenched fists, scrunched-up toes etc.  I’ll quietly remind her to relax, maybe placing a hand gently on each shoulder.  What I’ve noticed is, the more time I’ve spent with a woman antenatally, the more she responds to my voice during labour and women often say afterwards things like “I just heard your voice and knew everything was alright” or “the sound of your voice made me feel relaxed”.  Trust me, this isn’t because I have a particularly mellow, honeyed voice or I’m doing anything clever: it’s because she knows me and she trusts me.  So, when I suggest that she relaxes or that she changes position or that she’s doing really, really well or I assure her that everything is fine etc. she can accept what I’m saying, she doesn’t have to consider it too greatly.  We know that women need to be able to switch-off the decision making part of their brain in labour.

Some women need to comforted with every contraction, some women need to be massaged for ages, some women need nothing other than to know that her partner and I are there.  Every woman is different, every labour is different.

She also knows that me and her partner are there for the duration.  There’ll be no change of shift for us, whatever happens, whoever comes and goes we will be constant.

Again, I’m keeping an eye on her partner all the time.  Making sure that he or she is relaxed and confident. A labouring woman may look and sound completely different to any way that her partner has ever seen or heard before and sometimes they need reassurance that certain behaviours are normal.  If partners are getting tired, I’ll suggest they lie down and have a sleep, or go and get some fresh air and something to eat if they are both happy with that.  Dads are often very chivalrous and offer for me to have a nap during a longer labour.  Usually I decline – after all, once their baby’s born, I get to go home and sleep for as long as I want – I won’t have a new baby to look after!

Sometimes labours progress steadily and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes there’s a need for discussion and decision making.  My role then is to answer any questions parents may have and to make sure they get the information they need from caregivers and that they understand it, once again, in order to make sure that they can make any decisions in an informed way.  I then support any decision they make 100%.

After their baby is born, if everyone is ok, the midwife and I will leave the new family alone for a while to have that magical time together.  I go and sit outside, jot down my notes (I keep a birth record for every birth I attend), have something to eat  or if we’re at home, I’ll tidy-up, make tea and toast for everyone etc. and I’ll pop back after about 40 minutes.

Usually I leave about 2 hours after the baby is born – once everyone is settled and happy. I then visit at a time that suits the parents to support them in anyway needed and to talk through the birth.

I don’t do postnatal doulaing, but by the time I’ve been at someone’s birth, I have a relationship with and a vested interest in that family and will always pop ‘round, at the drop of a hat, without any charge, if they’re experiencing difficulties. I am available for them to get in touch with any queries or worries pretty much forever more after that.

What it really feels like to have a prolaspe

Guest post written by Jennie mum of one.

Four months after the birth of our daughter (water birth, gas and air, home in 3 hours after birth) I was feeling pretty much back to “me” – breast feeding was well established and I was loving the freedom of heading out to go to the hairdressers / lunch with friends / gym in the knowledge that baby was home with dad and there was expressed milk good to go. Even going to the corner shop had it’s delights….!

One weekend I was feeling particularly sprightly after about 4 hours unbroken sleep (yep, I know, amazing isn’t it after the first crazy few months) I headed to our local council gym… Spring in my step and a some new tunes on a playlist. Was great getting back into the running, weights and abs stuff… So much so I did the same the next day. And a boxing glass the next Wednesday. Then that evening I felt a strange feeling in my cervix / vagina when I was in the shower, and completely panicked.  It felt like the walls of my vagina had pushed together and I instantly knew this was a prolapse… But this doesn’t happen to fit healthy mums of one who are in their 30’s, right? Well…. It does happen, and it happens to more people than you think and no one talks about it. But it’s important and this is my attempt to dispel the myths about it all.

There are a few different types of prolapse – all stem from having weak / weakened pelvic floor muscles.  This is more susceptible following a vaginal birth but equally just carrying a baby during pregnancy put strains on these muscles.

The pelvic floor muscles are like hammock that hold your bladder, cervix / vagina and rectum all in their right positions.  When your muscles are weakened one or more of these organs can push onto another organ, commonly the vagina. In the more major cases they can push onto and out of the vagina.

After discovering something radically different had happened to me I panicked and cried and panicked more and cried more. I did some night time ‘googling’ and panicked some more (I know, this is never a good idea)! Thankfully my lovely midwife was on the end of the phone and after a quick referral via the doc to a specialist I was reassured that the “minor” prolapse would heal over time with pelvic floor exercises and in 6-12 weeks there should be a noticeable difference. Phew.

Pelvic floor exercises involve clenching / squeezing from the back passage all the way to the bladder / urethra area in one strong controlled motion.  Isolating these muscles from say, your buttocks or thighs is tricky and probably like most women I did some exercises during pregnancy but didn’t really spend much time on them.  Quite probably I wasn’t doing them properly.

After seeing a consultant I also visited a physio to make sure I had the right technique and a few weeks in I can feel the difference.  What caused it? Well I probably had weakened muscles from the reasonably quick birth, plus my excessive exercise regime didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong you can exercise and I had assumed that I would be back to post preg fitness four months in which reality you can be but I over did it with high impact too much too soon.  I also decided to phase off breast feeding as my daughter was approaching 5 months and I was close to going back to work… And when you are breast feeding there are lots of “softening” hormones that keep your ligaments and joints supple, so to hasten the speed at which it repairs I made the decision to move onto formula and felt really quite upset by it all… As I was keen to breast feed for six months.  However a few weeks in and baby is happy and I’m ok with it all now.

So now I’m focusing on various pelvic floor exercises through the day and have given up and high impact exercises for now in favour for Pilates and lots of walking.

I wanted to share my story because for about two weeks I was highly emotional and felt like a freak (harsh, but this is really how I was feeling) and really hadn’t appreciated this can happen to “fit and healthy” mums, even at a time where I felt completely recovered.

The positive thing to come out of this is I can take action now and prevent reoccurrence in
later life. Plus spread a little understanding about it. Prolapses are commonly misconstrued as a thing that happens to obese, post menopausal women where as this is far from the case.  Doing a short set of pelvic floor exercises often especially if you are pregnant, contemplating pregnancy or have had a baby is a good thing. The best thing is you don’t need to go to the gym to do it….

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Birth Story Of The Week – Annalise and Beatrice

I had never known that a home birth was an option for us before an appointment with our midwife, to discuss the birth. The thought of being in hospital gave me the woollies; I have a phobia of both me and other people being sick, so a labour ward was the sort of place I wanted to give a wide berth (excuse the pun). The thought of taking that anxiety out of labour was the initial appeal, but quickly other pros mounted up, and all I kept thinking was that we could change our mind at any point and go into hospital if we wanted. Planning a home birth just gave us a choice.

When I first mentioned a home birth to my husband, Guy, he was against the idea. He was worried about the possibility of something going wrong. Both our fathers are retired doctors and were sceptical, which added to his hesitance. I kept reminding him that we could transfer to the hospital at any point – we weren’t ruling anything out. It took a few weeks of mulling it over, but eventually Guy came round to the idea, supporting my decision.

Guy and I spent a lot of time preparing for the birth; Guy looked after the logistics, working out how to set up the pool and find the right adaptor for our taps (at one point he tried the shower arm because he couldn’t fit the adaptors). I focused on getting myself in the right physical condition and mind-set. I was doing lots of exercise such as yoga, swimming, step and resistance training. I was also doing my pelvic floor exercises and perennial massage. I listened to a hypobirthing track as I went to sleep at night, and also found it really useful in helping me get back to sleep when I was struck with insomnia.

Sunday 12 October 2014

1:27am

I was five days past my due date when I felt my first contraction. I woke up at 1:27am to a strong tightening in my stomach that faded away. I lay still, wondering what would happen next, and shortly after felt the same sensation rising and falling.

I slipped out of bed, not wanting to wake up Guy, and went into our sitting room to lie down on the sofa. I put on my hypnobirthing track, taking the opportunity to nap between contractions, which at this point were around eight minutes apart. After two 40-minute loops of the track, the contractions were getting stronger so I put on a DVD of ‘Cold Feet’, one of my favourite TV series, to distract me and moved onto onto my birthing ball. As the contractions came, I rested my head on the arm of the sofa, rolled my hips on the ball and closed my eyes. I had set myself the target of 6:00am to wake Guy. When 6:00am arrived, I still felt pretty relaxed, so I decided to hold out for another hour. Just after 7:00am, I went into our bedroom, nudged Guy gently and whispered, “Guy, the baby’s coming”. His eyes burst open and he leapt up, “Really? Where? Now?”

Once Guy had properly woken up, I gave him an update on the past hours. Together we timed a couple of contractions, had some breakfast, got showered and dressed and at 9:00am paged our midwife to let her know that our baby was ready to make its journey.

The midwife on call, called us back soon afterwards. We chatted about my progress and how I was feeling, “That all sounds great”, she said reassuringly, “keep doing what you’re doing – lots of walking around and moving, and give me a call again when the contractions are three minutes apart, and really strong; so strong you can’t think or talk through them.” Before putting down the phone, she said, ‘Each time a contraction comes, say to yourself ‘bring it on’. The bigger and stronger; the more you’re progressing”. It was piece of advice that carried me through the labour.

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We called our immediate families to let them know that we were on, and were brought to tears by a call with Guy’s mother who had explained that she’d secretly hoped that the baby would make an appearance today as it was the 12th anniversary of the death of her father, our baby’s great grandfather, a very special man.

9:30am

It was a beautiful, sunny, autumnal crisp Sunday morning, so Guy and I headed out to our local park, for a walk. We picked up coffees, and walked slowly around our favourite wildlife garden, talking about our baby, its names and our hopes and dreams for him or her. Guy was keeping track of the contractions and would say, “You should be having a contraction around n…”, and on cue I would feel one rising.

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After about an hour of walking, the contractions had increased in intensity and we headed home. Along the way the contractions would stop me in my tracks and I would need to crouch down on the path or lean on a tree until it had passed. During one contraction, I remember a young family passing us, smiling and giving us the thumbs up.

Once home, we reattached the TENS machine. I returned to the birthing ball and Guy started setting up the birthing pool in the back room of our flat. We had a ‘regular’ sized pool, which is 2m x 2m – it was big. The contractions were coming every three minutes but I could still think and talk through them so knew I just needed to keep going – Guy and I would count together (he’d call from the back of the flat) so I knew how long until it would pass, I knew when we reached 20 seconds that it was going to ease again.

11:00am

Around 11:00am the contractions reached an intensity that I felt deemed a call to the midwife – they were very regular and quite strong (‘quite’ being a reference of hindsight). The midwife explained to Guy that she was up at the hospital with a new mother (her first delivery of the day) and that she’d be with us within the hour. When I opened the door to her, it was a huge relief and I burst into tears.

Our midwife was fantastic. Guy and I both warmed to her immediately. She walked in, sat me down and chatted to me about how I was feeling, watched a couple of contractions, checked the baby’s and my heart rates, and then examined me; “You’re 3cm dilated, I’m going to stay”. The golden words; I was so relieved.

From this point it was all about progress, ‘bringing on’ the contractions. I’d been sitting on my birthing ball, rotating my hips, using my TENS machine and breathing to relax through the contractions (pursing my lips and breathing out ‘golden spirals’), but to get things going, I needed to move around. I got to my feet and started pacing up and down our hallway, looking for places to lean as the contractions washed over me.

Guy had just served our midwife some lunch when her phone rang. I was on my way back down the corridor and my ears pricked when I heard her say, “I’ll be with you in five minutes, I’m just around the corner”. The midwife put down the phone and said to Guy, “There’s a lady round the corner pushing with her second child, I’m afraid I have to go. You’ll understand when you have a second child. I’ll be back as soon as my colleague [the other midwife on call] gets there.” And she fled out the door.

There was nothing else to do but carry on as we were going. I continued pacing while Guy started filling the pool. I remained calm for around 45 minutes before I started longing for her return. I sat myself at the front window and gazed out at the road, squinting at every car that passed, asking Guy, “Is that her?”

3:00pm

Within the hour, she was back. This time, when she walked in, she was wearing a smock and carrying lots of bags of medical paraphernalia. I thought to myself, “this is more like it!’ Our midwife had reached the other house five minutes before the baby had arrived – her second delivery of the day. The second midwife, had arrived shortly afterwards having had to hitch-hiked a lift in a police van (anther story in itself). It was an extraordinary day for our midwives.

The midwives carried out more checks and suggested I get in the shower for a change of scenery.  As my waters still hadn’t broken, I thought it might be because I was worried about the mess in our recently refurbished flat, so I stepped into the shower thinking it might help me relax. I got down on all fours, and what a relief it was. Initially, I thought that the shower was slowing down my progress as the contractions eased, but it was actually relief from the warm water. I remained there for what I thought was 30 minutes, but was actually two hours. Guy kept popping his head round but I just apologetically asked him to leave me. I felt very calm and just wanted to be alone and focus on the contractions. The midwife intermittently, quietly and discretely, came in and checked our heart rates. Hearing the little heart beat of my baby was amazing. It was a constant reminder to me that me this was a team effort, I was not alone. My little baby was going through something even bigger than me and remaining calm. I was so proud.

6:00pm

At around 6:00pm, I asked the midwives what my options were – I felt like I was having contractions that seemed to go on an on – running into each other. I was disappointed that my waters hadn’t broken and I was worried it was holding my progress back. The midwives suggested another examination and then to get into the pool. The examination confirmed I was progressing well and had reached 7cm. She described my waters as ‘bulging’. In my head I was thinking, “don’t push them too hard, I don’t want them bursting on our brand new mattress”.

7:00pm

I made my way down to our back room where Guy had created the most beautiful space around the pool with candles and music. As soon as I saw the water I virtually dived in. As I submerged, a contraction took over me, and at the same time I felt my waters pop. The midwife tucked herself discretely to my left and Guy to my right. The midwife left Guy to do the encouraging while she wrote up my notes and calmly answered questions and monitored everything. About an hour later I started feeling the urge to push. At first I didn’t really know what I was doing but after a few attempts the midwife suggested I keep my voice low and explained that I had strong but short contractions so to really try and drag them out. I begged for a time frame, to which my midwife simply reassured me that I was doing well.

Guy was incredible – encouraging me, filling up my water bottle and reminding me to drink, filling up the pool with warm water and keeping so calm. He went through waves of emotions; laughing, crying and quietly just absorbing the atmosphere. I remember it being dark and very calm – probably because I mostly had my eyes closed. I felt very safe, focused and supported.

9:00pm

After an hour of bearing down I was tired. I had only eaten a piece of toast and my energy stores were getting low. Guy knelt beside me and said, your next push is going to be for Poppy (my niece). As the contraction rose I thought of Poppy’s little face and I found a new strength. Next up was my grandmother, followed by Guy’s grandfather (who’s anniversary it was), and it carried on.

Shortly afterwards we were joined by our second midwife This arrival was another huge help, I knew I must be getting close if back-up was arriving. I remember feeling something, like a little nose budging, but one more push and the baby crowned. My immediate reaction was to leap out the water and jump up and down, but the midwives told me to breath and listen very carefully as I needed to do some very small pushes to avoid tearing. I followed their instruction and felt the head deliver.  I remember looking down between my legs and seeing a torch light flashing around. The midwife told Guy to join her and showed him our baby’s face in a hand mirror – its little eyes blinking and head looking around.

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9:28pm

With the next and final contraction I pushed the rest of the body out. I reached down and lifted my baby up in front of me. The midwives spotted that the cord – which was all spiralled like an old telephone cord – had got tangled around the baby’s neck, so they both quickly jumped in and unwound it. I then lifted the baby out the water. As the tummy passed my eyes I saw that we had a daughter. “It’s a girl”, I announced, followed by, “and she looks like your dad, Guy”. In the background INXS’ ‘Beautiful Girl’ was coincidentally playing, it was a moment of my life that I will never forget.

I sat back into the water and the midwives placed my daughter in my arms and latched her on to feed – her body submerged in the pool to keep warm, with a little hat on her hat and towel over her shoulders. Once all the goodness had been pumped from the placenta, Guy stepped forward and cut the cord – separating my little baby and me for the first time. We sat for 20 minutes while the midwives filled out the paper work and made a round of tea. Guy took our daughter for some skin-to-skin and I stayed in the pool while we waited for signs that the placenta had detached. After 45 mins, the midwife stoked up an injection to speed up the process and as I stood up to have it administered, I spotted drops of blood in the water. With one final push (I really didn’t think I had it in me), I delivered it!

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11:30pm

 By 11:30pm our wonderful midwives had weighed our daughter, administered a vitamin K injection into her little leg, completed the paper work, cleared up the placenta and were ready to go. Our daughter was the third baby they had delivered that day – they are superhumas. We thanked them for everything (how do you even start to thank people who have just done what they did), and I took our baby to our bed where we rested and fed. Guy emptied the birthing pool – with a whiskey – and when it was all cleared joined us in bed. Just the three of us, our new wonderful family.

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I’m Expecting – A great new app for mums-to-be

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As soon as the baby is born, mums and dads spend every waking moment tirelessly documenting everything that happens to their bundle of joy. From the first word spoken to the first step taken, the first haircut, and even their favorite meals and TV shows, all of these go into a little baby book that parents can look through when they’re in the mood for some reminiscing. For parents who want to remember the whole pregnancy – morning sickness and all – it’s not quite as simple. There aren’t a lot of people who keep track of their pregnancy so meticulously, and they’ve often had to improvise to make their own pregnancy journals.

But there’s something comforting about being able to see all your symptoms and the memorable parts of your pregnancy, isn’t there? After all, there’s nothing that can help you deliver your baby more than being prepared does, and learning about your own body and the changes it undergoes throughout the pregnancy can be quite beneficial. This is why MedHelp, Inc. has created I’m Expecting a great new app on mobile phones that helps you keep track of your pregnancy and gives you tips on what to expect each week.

Many mums now rely on their phones for support, as reports have shown that pregnancy apps are more popular than fitness apps. Mums now also rely on the internet more than ever, and with Gaming Realms, the company that acquired Iceland Bingo in 2013, showing that growth in mobile internet is among the strongest trends in the internet landscape today, it’s not surprising that many mums use their phones to get information on their pregnancy and symptoms.

I’m Expecting eliminates the need to do Google searches for what to expect, and it takes the hassle out of creating your own pregnancy calendar. The app gives you the chance to say what your expected due date is and then calculates how many weeks into your pregnancy you are – perfect for mums who can never seem to keep track. A timeline for expected pregnancy symptoms is presented on a calendar, and you can actually say the actual dates once the symptoms kick in. Tips on what to expect from each trimester and week are also provided to mums, so they never have to worry about what’s happening to their babies. The app is presented in a beautiful, simple design so there’s no fuss, but the best part about it is that it gives mums easy access to the MedHelp Pregnancy Forums, where thousands of mums come together to help each other through their pregnancies.

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There are many other pregnancy tracking apps out there, but I’m Expecting stands out from the rest with its practical range of services, as well as its excellent support. If used with dedication, the app can not only help you through your first pregnancy, but help you keep track of everything so you’ll know what to expect for succeeding pregnancies as well. Why not give it a try. You can download here from Google Play.